Farmers and the food industry should stop using antibiotics to promote faster growth of animals, WHO has said.
Farmers use antibiotics on animals such as chicken, swines, turkeys and cattle for reasons such as increasing weight and egg production.
Guidelines launched by the World Health Organization on Tuesday show misuse of antibiotics is not preserving its effectiveness for human medicine considering the fact that the world is running out of the drugs.
“Over-use and misuse of antibiotics in animals and humans is contributing to the rising threat of antibiotic resistance,” noted WHO director general Tedros Adhanom.
“Some types of bacteria that cause serious infections in humans have already developed resistance to most or all of the available treatments, and there are very few promising options in the research pipeline.”
The director general added drugs used in animals should be selected from those WHO has listed as being “least important” to human health, not those classified as “highest priority critically important”.
These antibiotics are often the last line, or one of the limited treatments for serious bacterial infections in humans.
“Scientific evidence demonstrates overuse of antibiotics in animals can contribute to the emergence of antibiotic resistance,” said Zoonoses Kazuaki, WHO Director of the Department of Food Safety.
“The volume of antibiotics used in animals is continuing to increase worldwide, driven by a growing demand for foods of animal origin, often produced through intensive animal husbandry.”
In September this year, WHO noted ailments such as pneumonia and urinary tract infections will be harder to treat because the world is running out of antibiotics.
It also noted “with a lot of concern” that most of the drugs in the market are modifications of existing classes of antibiotics and are only short-term solutions.
A systematic review, published in The Lancet Planetary Health yesterday, found interventions that restrict antibiotic use in food-producing animals reduce antibiotic-resistant bacteria in these animals by up to 39 per cent.
“The evidence from the systematic reviews shows that restricting the use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals reduces the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance in bacteria isolated from food-producing animals that are, and can be, transmitted to humans,” it stated.
Healthy animals should only receive antibiotics to prevent disease if it has been diagnosed in other animals in the same flock, herd or fish population, the report also stated.
Where possible, sick animals should be tested to determine the most effective and prudent antibiotic to treat their specific infection.
Alternatives to using antibiotics for disease prevention in animals include improving hygiene, better use of vaccination and changes in animal housing and husbandry practices.